What is Adderall? Adderall is the new name for a Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)/Amphetamine composite medication which has been around for more than 20 years. This formula was also used in a medication known as Obetrol, made in the past by Rexar and developed for "diet control." Adderall, like all amphetamines, has a high potential for abuse. If used in large doses over long periods of time, it can cause dependence and addiction.

Adderall is classified as a Schedule II controlled Substance. This means:

  1. Adderall has a high potential for abuse.
  2. Adderall currently has an accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions.
  3. Abuse of Adderall may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Adderall is used as part of a treatment program to control symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; more difficulty focusing, controlling actions, and remaining still or quiet than other people who are the same age) in adults and children. Adderall is also used to treat narcolepsy (a sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden attacks of sleep). This drug is in a class of medications called central nervous system stimulants. It works by changing the amounts of certain natural substances in the brain.

Adderall is thought to treat ADHD by blocking the reuptake of dopamine from the neural synapses and increasing the uptake into subsequent neurons. The increased dopamine flow in the frontal cortex then allows the brain to carry on its executive functions as a normal brain would, thus counteracting the effects of ADHD. But what happens when a brain whose executive functions work properly is treated with such a powerful stimulant?

The answer to this question lies in the 1 in 5 college students that admit to using this drug and not having ADHD. Why? Athletes have steroids, depressives have "happy-pills", and those who wish to do it all, and do it fast, have Adderall. A person with a perfectly normal, functioning frontal cortex and dopamine levels will experience a heightened sense of motivation, focus, and concentration with Adderall in their system. Presumably this is the perfect mood to pull all-nighters, read hundreds of pages at a time, and write pages and pages of that final paper.

Prescribed liberally by psychiatrists to young people who they believe have a learning disability, such as ADHD, Adderall is easier to get on some campuses than a can of beer. Students who do not get it by prescription beg or buy a few pills from friends. Some students take Adderall to sharpen their focus; some crush and snort it to get a high.

Currently, 15 % of our nation's children are on psychotropic substances. Adderall is the primary amphetamine on the market now. According to IMS America, which studies drug use, 11 million prescriptions were written for amphetamine products in the US in 2004; more than 7 million were for Adderall.

In a recent survey of students at 119 American college campuses published in the journal Addiction, it was found that up to 25% of those enrolled at very competitive universities had used the drug as a study aid. Another survey study, the federal government's National Survey on Drug Use and Health, for 2008, found that only 6.4% of students had used the drug in the past year, but that college students aged 18-22 were twice as likely to abuse Adderall than non students from the same age group.

The general consensus is that stimulant amphetamines like Adderall do indeed increase performance in those that do and do not have properly diagnosed ADHD. The promise of a better GPA with less effort is promise enough for college students across the board to obtain Adderall by any means necessary. Many students admit to actually seeing doctors and purposefully exaggerating symptoms of ADHD to acquire medication. Others simply pop a generously donated pill from their pals. The danger lies in the possibility of dependence and the rarely considered effect of the drug on those that have preexisting medical problems that can deteriorate with prolonged use.

Since many students assert that they use Adderall only for studying for large tests and completing important assignments, the risk of dependency is high. "I don't think I'm addicted...I just can't imagine not taking it," says student Susan. Says student Steve: "I attend a major university. I take two pills when I have a ton of work to do. Without Adderall I failed one class. I began to take Adderall again and saw a huge improvement." The long term effects of using Adderall in this manner are relatively unknown, however it is well known that those that use amphetamines in larger doses by snorting or inhaling can very well be diagnosed with addiction.